Give them sterile razors: controversial self-harm strategy


Michael Cook*

Some people who self-harm should be provided with sterile razors, says a mental health expert in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Patrick Sullivan, of the University of Manchester, argues that this approach may be more respectful of patients’ autononomy. He suggests that a harm-minimisation strategy for self-harming individuals could include provision of sterile cutting implements, education on how to self-injure more safely to avoid blood poisoning and infection, as well as therapy and alternative coping strategies. . . .
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Pharmacists in ‘conscientious objection’ to morning-after pill

Some are refusing to sell emergency contraception

Times of Malta

Claire Caruana

A number of individual pharmacists are refusing to dispense the morning-after pill on moral grounds, it has emerged, even though the emergency contraceptive is stocked in the pharmacies where they work.

The pharmacists are either directing customers to other pharmacies where they will not have a problem purchasing the pill or else telling them to return to the same pharmacy another time when another “sympathetic” pharmacist will be on duty.

Malta Chamber of Pharmacists president Mary Ann Sant Fournier told The Sunday Times of Malta that like other independent healthcare professionals, pharmacists “have a right to conscientious objection”. . .[Full text]


Australian women complain of ‘gender disappointment’


Michael Cook*

“Gender disappointment” is not a recognised medical condition. But many women in Australia – where gender selection is illegal — attribute their depression to it. Speaking to Australia’s ABC network, a woman using the pseudonym Kate described it as “a guilt-ridden, debilitating depression”. She has two boys and she desperately wants a daughter.. . .
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Important legal action: 18 women’s health organizations sue Illinois Gov. Rauner

Illinois Pregnancy Resource Centers Sue Governor for First Amendment Violations:  State Law Compels Staff to Refer for Abortions Despite Religious Objections

News Release

Thomas More Society

(February 10, 2017 – Chicago) Eighteen Illinois women’s health organizations are suing Governor Bruce Rauner over Illinois’ new law forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy resource centers to discuss abortion benefits and refer pregnant women for abortions despite their conscience-based opposition to abortion.

The controversial SB 1564, which amended the Health Care Right of Conscience Act effective January 1, 2017, has left Illinois’ over 90 not-for-profit pregnancy resource centers with little choice but to file suit seeking a judicial determination that the law unconstitutionally abridges their free speech and interferes with their religious beliefs.

The Thomas More Society filed for injunctive relief this week on behalf of 18 of the centers, citing violations of multiple rights under the Constitution of the State of Illinois. It filed an action on behalf of two others late last week, The Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland and Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois. Some of the centers have been forced to stop medical services, which include pregnancy tests, sonograms, and STD testing, until the legal issues are resolved.

Thomas Olp, Attorney for the Thomas More Society, observed, “This law targets pro-life pregnancy centers, which do not refer for abortion, and whose pro-life mission is to advise clients of alternatives to abortion. The new law requires these pro-life centers, and only them, to discuss ‘benefits’ of abortion with their clients and to name abortion providers upon request. This is the essence of forced government speech prohibited by the free speech provisions of our federal and state constitutions. The First Amendment equally protects the right to speak and not to speak. The government cannot show a compelling reason for this requirement since information about abortion is readily available from all sorts of public and private sources.

It is as easy to find the location of an abortion clinic as to find our clients’ pregnancy resource centers. Moreover, the law is content-based and viewpoint-discriminatory, meaning it applies to a certain type of speech, and targets only conscience-based objectors, but leaves all others free from regulation. Its intent really is to directly interfere with pro-life pregnancy centers that have aided many thousands of pregnant women over the years learn that abortion is not the only choice in a problem pregnancy, and that adoption and parenting are not only healthier choices for the mother but avoid the tragedy of abortion, which kills an unborn child. In my view, the law is nefarious and pernicious in its targeting of pro-life physicians and pregnancy resource centers.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois – Chancery Division, charges Governor Rauner and his Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Bryan Schneider, with several constitutional violations resulting from enacting SB 1564. The Plaintiffs advance claims under the free speech, religious liberty, due process, and equal protection clauses of the state constitution.

Those abuses include infringement of the following rights:

The Constitution of the State of Illinois’ guarantee that, “All persons may speak, write, and publish freely.” The Plaintiffs’ freedom of speech is abridged when the state compels them to discuss treatment options and disclose abortion providers to which they possess sincerely-held religious objections.

The statute is vague and therefore violates constitutional due process because it does not give fair notice to a person of common intelligence as to what it requires. Rather, one must guess as to its meaning.

The statute denies plaintiffs equal protection of the laws in that it targets a class of conscience-based objectors but does not regulate health care providers who do not have conscience-based objections.

The law interferes with the Illinois Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. Article I, Section 3 guarantees “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination.”

The Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects Illinoisans’ free exercise of religion. SB 1564 substantially burdens the plaintiffs’ exercise of religion.

Mary Strom, Executive Director of The Women’s Centers, which has three sites in the Chicago area, stated that the organization’s success is directly tied to its Catholic identity, even while it serves women of all faiths. “I credit the success we have had in helping women to the power of prayer,” she shared. “Everything comes from that.”

Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois, was founded by Laura Petigoue and her husband, Mark. “It was after I learned about the devastation that abortion brings that we dedicated ourselves to addressing the needs of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies and providing loving, Christ-centered alternatives,” recalled Petigoue, who is greatly saddened by Illinois’ adoption of this law she calls, “monstrously prejudicial.” Debbie Case, the Executive Director of Hope Life Center, noted, “For over 30 years, Hope Life Center has been the only organization in our community dedicated to providing women with the education and medical services they need to make informed decisions about unwanted pregnancies. Now we have had to suspend all our medical services because this new law mandates us to serve these women in a way that is harmful to them and to their unborn children. We’re seeking relief from this law so we can get back to doing what we do best, taking care of vulnerable women in our community.”

Mr. Olp also observed, “Most of our Plaintiffs have literally spent decades helping women by providing information about alternatives to abortion (parenting and adoption), thereby helping to empower and encourage them to recognize that a choice for life for their unborn child is much preferable to abortion both for them and for their unborn babies. The new law strikes at the Plaintiffs’ faith-based ability to render effective assistance to pregnant women about child bearing and child rearing by requiring them to substitute a secular government-sponsored message totally at odds with their faith position. The government is not permitted constitutionally to do this, in our view.”

The Pregnancy Resource Centers filing suit this week were:

WATERLEAF WOMEN’S CENTER, Aurora and Bolingbrook;

Link to the above filing here.

Read the Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, filed February 2, 2017, in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois – Chancery Division, in the case, The Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland, a not-for-profit Illinois corporation, and Hope Life Center, Inc., a not-for-profit Illinois corporation v. Bruce Rauner, in his official capacity as Governor of State of Illinois, Bryan A. Schneider, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, in his official capacity here.

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit


Right the wrong of dismissing health workers’ conscience rights

The Catholic Register


Following the shooting deaths of six men inside a Quebec City mosque, politicians quite rightly condemned the slaughter and affirmed Canada’s commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance.

But those words ring hollow in Ontario when applied to the dismissive way Catholic and other conscientiously objecting doctors are being treated on the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

No hint of accommodation is found in demands to compel doctors to either act against their religious beliefs and values or face discipline that could include loss of their medical license. Yet, that is the situation in Ontario. . . [Full text]


Medical journal to retract paper after concerns organs came from executed prisoners

Study published in Liver International examined the outcomes of 564 transplantations at Zhejiang University’s First Affiliated hospital in China

The Guardian

A prestigious medical journal will retract a scientific paper from Chinese surgeons about liver transplantation after serious concerns were raised that the organs used in the study had come from executed prisoners of conscience.

The study was published last year in Liver International. It examined the outcomes of 564 liver transplantations performed consecutively at Zhejiang University’s First Affiliated hospital between April 2010 and October 2014.

According to the study authors, “all organs were procured from donors after cardiac death and no allografts [organs and tissue] obtained from executed prisoners were used”. . . .[Full text]


When a doctor’s right to choose trumps a woman’s right to choose

In Italy, conscientious objectors make it difficult to have an abortion


Guilia Paravicini

On the books, abortion in Italy is legal. In practice, it is out of reach for many women.

An unprecedented wave of so-called conscientious objectors — doctors declining to perform abortions for personal or religious reasons — is sweeping the country. Today, 70 percent of Italian gynecologists and 48.4 percent of anesthesiologists decline to perform terminations, according to a report from the Italian health ministry presented in December.

In more conservative regions such as Sicily and Campania, as much as 84 percent of doctors object to abortion. That leaves a tiny group of abortion providers to deal with a huge demand for terminations. . . [Full text]


Archdiocese launches conscience campaign to protect doctors

The Catholic Register

Evan Boudreau

As Catholic doctors and other conscientious objectors face discipline that could include losing their medical license, the Archdiocese of Toronto has launched an eight-week campaign to promote “robust conscience protection” for health care workers.

The initiative comes on the heels of the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide and, in Ontario, a refusal to allow doctors to totally opt out of the process. No doctor is required to end the life of a patient, but those who object to doctor-assisted killing are required to provide an “effective referral,” even when such referrals go against their religious and moral beliefs. . . . [Full text]


Re-Introduced Conscience Bill Would Protect Health Providers From Abortion Mandates

U.S. bishops have previously asked Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act.

National Catholic Register

Matt Hadro

WASHINGTON — A bill that would protect health care providers’ freedom to opt out of abortion mandates they find objectionable has once again been introduced in Congress.

“This bill is needed to give health care providers the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held beliefs,” Sen. James Lankford, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, stated on Friday.

“Americans have very different views about abortion, but we should not force anyone to participate in it or provide coverage,” he added.

The Conscience Protection Act would protect health care providers from federal, state and local abortion mandates if they conscientiously object to assisting with abortions. It would also protect religious employers from having to cover elective abortions in their health plans and establishes a “right of action” for all entities if they believe their religious beliefs on the matter are violated. . . [Full text]


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